Buried in a National Catholic Register report on the biannual meeting of U.S. Catholic bishops this week is the surprising revelation that Brad Wilcox, one of the researchers behind Mark Regnerus’ infamously flawed study of same-sex parenting, admitted to attendees that most social scientists have found “no difference” between “a stable same-sex family and a stable heterosexual family.”
And when a Washington state bishop compared same-sex marriage to cohabitation, Wilcox responded that data suggests “when same-sex marriage is legalized and it is given cultural support, it will be as stable as heterosexual marriage" and that married same-sex couples “are more likely to have stable relationships when the legal regime is more supportive of their relationships.”
Following his talk, Wilcox took a number of questions from bishops on the floor of the meeting. Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput asked why, if marriage is so valuable for economic success, same-sex marriage is being legalized in so many states.
"Most of the scientists would say that there's no difference ... between a stable same-sex family and a stable heterosexual family," replied Wilcox, noting that those scientists might consider stability the "key factor, not other issues that might relate to a child's well-being."
Yakima, Wash., Bishop Joseph Tyson asked why same-sex marriage is not considered by the studies Wilcox cited to be as dangerous as cohabitation.
"I think that the assumption ... is that when same-sex marriage is legalized and it is given cultural support, it will be as stable as heterosexual marriage," Wilcox replied.
"Is there data to back that?" Tyson asked.
"The data suggest that same-sex couples -- and this is really preliminary -- are more likely to have stable relationships when the legal regime is more supportive of their relationships," Wilcox replied.
This acknowledgment of mainstream social science’s assessment of gay and lesbian parenting is important coming from someone who helped to shape the Regnerus study, the discredited attack on same-sex parenting that is still cited widely by marriage equality opponents. We wrote last year:
Documents obtained by the American Independent this year revealed that the Witherspoon Institute was closely involved in Regnerus’ work through the go-between of W. Bradford Wilcox, a professor at the University of Virginia who at the time ran Witherspoon’s program on family, marriage and democracy, which had recruited Regnerus to conduct the study on LGBT parents. Regnerus in turn hired Wilcox on contract to assist him with data analysis on the study. Along with working with Regnerus on his skewed interpretation of the data, Wilcox urged Regnerus to release the study in time to influence the U.S. Supreme Court in its upcoming marriage equality cases. (Regnerus later signed onto an amicus brief seeking to influence both cases, which extensively cited his own research).
Wilcox’s remark echo the Proposition 8 trial testimony of David Blankenhorn, in which he acknowledged the stability provided by marriage for same-sex couples. Blankenhorn later became a full-fledged marriage equality advocate.
UPDATE: The bishops’ group has posted video of the conference. It’s clear from the video that Wilcox isn’t completely on board with the social science on same-sex marriage, but does acknowledge the consensus among his colleagues.
Interestingly, Wilcox did not mention same-sex marriage at all until it was brought up in the question-and-answer session.